Tuesday 18 September 2012

The Refractory Poor

The day on which they visit the insane is by the officers considered an excessively heavy day's duty. The first they do is to go to Islington, where they keep the refractory poor, who are a parcel of worthless creatures, who quarrel with those in the [work]house; idle, dissipated creatures, who we find it impossible to keep with any peace and quietness in the [work]house.  There is a farm workhouse, where they lodge badly, and food very inferior to what they do in the workhouse of St. Martin's, and we do that as a punishment to them; we keep them as bare as we can, with any degree of propriety of clothing. They always make a rule on the day of visiting the insance to visit the refractory poor; to examine them, and see if any of them are at all to be reformed, or are brought down from their high spirit, or are brought fit for work; they also examine them minutely, which takes generally a couple of hours; sometimes it happens there are thirty of forty, and at times not above fifteen or sixteen. They then go from there to visit the insane; there they go through the same sort of examination, patient by patients, both the male and female, which seldom takes less than two hours.

Mr. James De Ville, Overseer of the Poor, St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, in 
Report from the Select Committee appointed to Inquire into the General Operation and Effect of The Laws and Usages under which Select and Other Vestries are constituted in England Wales (1830)

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